Bill Nelson to be rare Democrat to vote for repeal of the estate tax by Mitch E. Perry

06/08/06

Senate Republicans are divided over whether to eliminate altogether the estate taxes on a small group of U.S. multimillionaires or just sharply reduce their tax liabilities at death.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is pushing this week for a permanent repeal of the tax, which is being temporarily phased out under President George W. Bush's 2001 tax cuts. The Senate begin debating repeal today and may hold a first vote on the measure tomorrow.

Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said yesterday that Republicans are three or four votes shy of winning full repeal. He said they may be able to muster the 60 votes needed to pass an alternative measure that would exempt $10 million of a couple's estate from the tax. The plan would subject any amount above that to a 15 percent rate, or 31 percentage points lower than the current top rate of 46 percent. There are only a couple of Democrats who say they will vote for repeal of the Estate Tax.

And Florida’s Bill Nelson, up for re-election this year, is one of them.

Today 2 consumer advocate groups, the Florida Consumer Action Network, or FCAN, and the Emergency Coalition for America’s priorities, held a state wide Conference Call urging Nelson, along with Florida’s Republican Senator Mel Martinez to oppose the vote when it comes up on Thursday

FCAN’s Program Director Phil Compton, introduced a new report that reveals that repealing the Estate or Death Tax, would only benefit 3,000 Florida multimillionaires.(roll tape#1 o.q.�on the entire society�)

Compton then recited a number of social programs that are on the verge of having their funding cut, but could be retained if Congress does NOT repeal the Estate Tax (roll tape#2 o.q.�in Florida�)

Congress has already passed a law that reduced the tax rate on estate taxes up until 2010. Then it comes back in 2011 with renewed exemptions and tax rates because repealing the estate Tax altogether was simply too expensive.

Lee Farris is a Senior Organizer on Estate Tax Policy for United for a Fair Economy. She that the number of people having to pay this tax right now is pretty small (roll tape#3 o.q.�deaths�) And Farris says that because Congress has already raisied the exemption levels, the Estate Tax is no longer affecting most small businesses or farms. (roll tape#4 o.q.�farms or businesses�)

WMNF contacted Senator Nelson’s office today to confirm that he is supporting the repeal, as has been reported . A press release was sent to us later in the day. It reads:

Senator Nelson supports repealing the estate tax, or so-called death tax. But with the Senate likely to be short of 60 votes needed for permanent repeal, Nelson hopes a compromise will be reached to at least permanently reduce the tax on people’s estates.

Why would Senator Nelson be one of the few Democrats who would abandon his Party and support the repeal of estate taxes?

ECAPS Lee Farris has a possible explanation (roll tape#5 o.q.’around the re-election campaign�)

Karen Woodall, a lobbyist who advocates for a number of social service programs, says that with Governor Bush successfully eliminating much of the Intangibles Tax in Florida, Floridians cannot literally afford to social programs get cut by having the Estate Tax made permanent. (roll tape#6 o.q.�working family�)

FCAN is providing a toll –free number to contact Senators Nelson and Mel Martinez, urging them vote against the Estate Tax Repeal when it comes before the Senate. That number is 800-459-1887.

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